How to protect yourself from a home invasion or burglary

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's every homeowner's worst fear: being the victim of a home invasion. What would you do? Would you fight back? Hide?

For Charlotte mom Niki Laney, her worst fear happened on a weekday morning while she was home sick with her two children asleep upstairs.

It all started, she said, with a seemingly innocent knock on the front door mid morning.

"I didn't answer it thinking it was satellite salesman," said Laney.

Moments later, two men - one of the armed - kicked in her front door.

"I knew what was going on," she recalled. "So I jump up, grab my house phone and run into my washroom."

Laney grabbed the gun from a drawer in her laundry room but had no time to load any bullets.

"By the time I grabbed [the gun] like this, they were in my house," she said. "And all I had to do was just jump behind this door here and just stand here in the dark."

She hid until the men left after stealing her iPhone, jewelry and some cash.

Police say home invasions where the victim doesn't know the suspects are rare in Charlotte. Most have some kind of relationship with the suspects and it's usually a sinister one.

But they say hiding like Laney did could help save your life.

"If I would have jumped out, I'm afraid he would have shot me or something else could have happened and I didn't want my kids to see me dead," she said.

Not so rare: home burglaries.

In fact, the Reedy Creek neighborhood in Northeast Charlotte saw the crime skyrocket 100 percent between July and August compared to the same time last year.

The M-O, says Lt. Robert Childs was always the same.

"They kicked in doors and [broke through] windows," he said.

Police say there was one critical element that served as a tipping point to stop the home break-ins in this community: Homeowners taking ownership and fighting back.

That means urging homeowners to do the one thing that could keep them or a neighbor from being a victim: Calling 911.

Lt. Childs assures you -- you're not being a nuisance.

"That's what we do," he said. "We answer 911 calls. We don't mind. We actually like it!"

With this community doing its part, burglaries plummeted. Not a one since early August.

They also arrested four men including one juvenile.

All because the community stepped up and took back their neighborhood.

"You don't hurt yourself by calling 911," he said.

Home invasion, when robbers force their way into an occupied house or apartment, is an especially frightening crime since we see our homes as our safe havens from the outside world. Although total security is only an ideal, there are some measures you can take to prevent it from happening.

Here are some tips from

• Always lock doors, windows and garages.

• Make sure home entrances are well-lighted, and minimize bushes where intruders can hide before their ambush.

• Use the peephole before opening the door to anyone.

• Don't use the chain latch to open the door part-way.

• Don't open the door to solicitors or strangers.

• Install solid-core doors, heavy-duty locks and window security systems.

• Have a family meeting to work out home security plans.

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